MSAH Program Celebrates its 10-Year Anniversary

Posted Jan 31, 2023

The Master of Science in Allied Health (MSAH) program at Otterbein University began in fall 2012. Eleven students were in the first incoming class, six of whom were graduate assistants.  The program evolved from an opportunity to address the graduate school needs of the Department of Health and Sport Sciences (HSS) undergraduate students and provide a graduate program for sports-related graduate assistants. Joan Rocks, chair of the HSS Department, and Shelly Payne, Allied Health faculty, developed the program. Paul Longenecker was hired as the dedicated program faculty member in January 2013. He remained with the program for 10 years, during which 122 students graduated from the program. The students are and have been diverse in terms of age, gender, race, religion, cultural background, work experience, and career goals.  

A key highlight of the program has been the great success of its students after graduation. Many students completed the program with a goal of additional educational training. Several students have been accepted into doctor of physical therapy programs, while others pursued occupational therapy, dietetics and nutrition, and doctorate degrees. Many students have pursued leadership positions after graduation, working in exercise and fitness settings, and in healthcare policy, parks and recreation, public health, community-based services, and athletic coaching.  

A key to the success of this program noted by students and community members is the application of program content through the practicum experience. Approximately 90% of students chose this option for their capstone experience. Practicum sites have included OhioHealth, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Mount Carmel Health, LifeCare Alliance, Otterbein Athletics, community recreation and fitness centers, and the American Summer Institute, which is held in Hungary. The pandemic impacted many recent practicum experiences, but with the support of site coordinators and the persistence and adaptability of students, practicums continued although in modified formats including being completely virtual. 

Additional highlights of the program’s history include the MSAH program ranking in the 2019 Top 20 in Best Master’s of Science in Healthcare Administration programs in the U.S, according to the Top Master’s in Healthcare Administration website and selection as a Higher Education Network (HEN) partner through the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). As part of the HEN relationship, a MSAH student serves on an ACHE advisory committee.  

Individual MSAH alumni successes include William Bishop ’19 being awarded a Congressional Fellowship upon graduation and identified as an Otterbein University Rising Star in 2021. Representing the quality of MSAH graduates and sharing their knowledge, Tina Bourdette ’14, Stephania Bernard-Ferrell ’15, Lauren Quintana ’17, and Shelby Reichle ’19 have returned to teach courses in the MSAH program and HSS undergraduate courses. 

During the 10-year history of the program, seven HSS faculty members have taught MSAH courses. Through their input, the program has remained on the cutting edge of healthcare practices. A key to the program’s success has been its ability to adapt to change. Examples include modifying course sequencing to address student needs, modifying the U.S. Healthcare Policy course to accommodate undergraduate Public Health Education students who take the course as a requirement for their major, and working with the MBA program as they created a Healthcare Administration track that includes MSAH healthcare administration courses. In addition, many MSAH students take MBA courses as an elective. 

Over time there have been changes in program leadership. Joan Rocks was the initial MSAH program director, followed by Longenecker, and then Erica Van Dop. Transition continues with the retirement of Longenecker at the end of fall semester 2022. Thank you, Dr. Longenecker, for your unwavering energy in supporting the program and creating its identity in the community. We wish you well.  

This spring, I’m taking the helm of the MSAH program. I’m a long-time MSAH faculty member, as well as the undergraduate Public Health Education program director.  

I am excited to be the MSAH program director for the next few months and am available if you want to talk more about the program or have any questions that I can answer. 

Robert E. Braun, Ph.D., MPH, CHES 

MSAH Graduate Director